We have recently celebrated APM’s 10-year anniversary and it’s been quite a journey, so I decided to take a quick look back at what’s happened over that time!
How it all started
My background was in the motor industry, with time spent at Volvo Head Office – then in Marlow – and then many years at Nissan Motors in Maple Cross. I then jumped to the other side of the fence and worked with Camden Motors in Leighton Buzzard. I was always ‘client-side’ and, as I learnt later, my time with those corporates gave me a very good foundation for what was yet to come!
It was in 2009 that I was made redundant from Camden Motors and I have to say, the best thing that has ever happened to me! Whilst I was looking for a new full-time job, some freelance opportunities came my way and, as if by magic, APM was formed!
Of course its never that simple, there’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears in that time, but I do recall off the back of my first retained client that I managed to identify and form some kind of structure, which I could then replicate and offer to other businesses. Though prior to this, I never had any plans to run my own business.
But I did create a business, and during a recession too! I also knew that the motor industry could not sustain me going forward and so I actively created a portfolio that was as diverse as it could possibly be and that remains the same today! The common theme is my clients’ passion for their businesses, their energy and their desire for growth and, most importantly, they are nice people to do business with! I always say that I am the most passionate person in the business, second only to the business owner – I can only do that if I enjoy working with the people.
I recall an epiphany, whilst on the telephone to an insurance salesman one day, it was 2 or 3 months after I’d started the business. What would I do if all of my clients were run over by a bus the next day, how would I pay my mortgage?! It was at that point, I started networking. Of course networking meant very little to an ex-corporate employee – I had no idea what to do or where to start, so I literally became a networking tart for the next 6 months whilst I visited as many different groups as I could without having to become a member. It was a wise decision, as it’s not just about the people within the group, but the venue, time of day, location and a whole host of other factors. I continue to network regularly today and very much enjoy the process.
It was during those early networking groups, that I formed a business relationship with a group of like-minded entrepreneurs. We called ourselves Dot.Future and organised workshops to educate companies on how to use social media for their business. It’s hard to remember a time without social media now, but back in 2010 it was very much in its infancy.
So, what else has happened over that 10 years? Well on a personal front: I endured a traumatic relationship break-up; two house moves; two car changes; became an Auntie for the second time and I got a rescue dog – a little Shih-Tzu called Millie who I adore!
In June 2010 I became an MCIM Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and, much to my delight, was awarded Chartered Marketer status in June 2014. I continue to participate in the CIM CPD to ensure my continued learning and development and to maintain my Chartered status, with regular workshops, seminars, webinars and reading.
At the back end of 2015 I started working with a management consultancy called SR Consulting with a view to growing APM and to ensure it was on a really stable footing for the future. I recall hearing stats about the number of businesses who fail in the first year, and then in the first 3 years and just when I thought I had made back in 2012, someone suggested a further stat for businesses at 5 years! Thankfully I made it to that point and the rest, as they say is history!
My target audience changed from working predominantly with sole traders to working with companies employing 5-15 people, who had identified a desire for growth. Any larger than 15 and they may already have a marketing person in-house although that’s certainly not always the case. And indeed, in some cases, a larger organisation needs consultancy or project support.
What APM offers is a flexible off head-count resource, freeing up the business owner’s time to concentrate on what they are good at – running the business.
I never wanted to employ people, neither to have that responsibility nor to meet the numerous employment regulations. I loved managing teams of people back in the day, but it wasn’t right for me outside of the corporate environment. Instead I have built up a network of other high-calibre, professional and experienced freelancers that I work with on a daily basis to service my clients.
My clients though, have a single point of contact. Its easier and simpler for them, they don’t have to keep repeating their story or building further relationships, nor finding the right resource.
In March 2018, I bought a magazine publishing business! When I started APM, I was living in Berkhamsted, by the time I had the dog, I was living in Tring. Although only 5 miles apart, they are quite different, though I love them both. The magazine titles were Berkhamsted Living and Tring Living and they had been created back in 2001.
I felt that the two publications were too important within the local communities to fold and I also saw an opportunity to round out the business digitally. Plus, I’m passionate about supporting local business and maintaining viable high streets, and these two quarterly lifestyle publications gave me a platform for both.
It has been a steep learning curve and I owe a debt of gratitude to a small number of people who helped me get the first issues out in the Summer of 2018. I remember now that we had only six weeks to do so, but we managed it and so a new journey began, or rather a second journey as APM continues to be as strong as ever and is my first love!
As a business owner you get used to juggling, no-one tells you at start-up that you will need to wear so many hats – finance director one minute, sales director the next! But if you’re adaptable and resilient, you can make it through.
In June, as I say, I celebrated the 10-year anniversary of APM. I took a small group of clients and colleagues on a boat trip one evening, each of whom has had an impact on me and my business during that time – some clients have been with me over the entire 10-year journey! We enjoyed champagne and cake and it was just a delightful, fun evening!
I also jumped out of a plane for the Hospice of St Francis! I had always fancied a skydive and the opportunity came along at just the right time. I’m delighted to say that I managed to raise over £1000 for them.
So I will end this story, this little look down memory lane, with some photographs from my birthday celebrations – courtesy of Rebecca Fennell Photography – and heartfelt thanks to all those involved in my 10-year journey.
Here’s to the next 10 years!